Wednesday, November 10, 2010

IBMA 2010 - Fan Fest Sunday & Final Assessment

Sunday at the International Bluegrass Music Association's annual World of Bluegrass - Fan Fest celebration of bluegrass music as a performance art and a musical industry suffers from much the same problems as Sunday at any bluegrass festival.  People are in a hurry to catch planes, check out of hotels, get on the road, and, generally, return to real life back home.  The week long feast of meeting, greeting, exchanging ideas and business cards, listening to bands you never heard of and ones you've known for years, picking, singing, and sleep deprivation ends on a too little attended Sunday of gospel music and personal testimony that entertains and inspires the few people making the effort to attend.  Here's a look at the Sunday morning at IBMA and an overview of some of the highlights of the entire week.

Fan Fest - Gospel Sunday
The Ridge Runners 

 Bradley Walker, Jody King & Kayla King
Back Stage
Carl Jackson & Donna Ulisse

 Barry Scott

 Don Rigsby - Singing and Testifying
Don Rigsby
Pam & Bill Warren
In the Audience
The Moore Brothers
Back Stage
Donna Ulisse
Bradley Walker

Co-Producer Mark Newton 
Sunday Stage Manager - Kitsy Kuykendall

Co-Producers Carl Jackson & Mark Newton
Time to Start Planning Next Year

IBMA Assessment & Some Highlights

The IBMA World of Bluegrass and Fan Fest presents a sometimes bewildering program filled with choices about how to use time and benefit the most from what's offered.  The Conference Program is 132 pages long for a good reason.  Seminars, Labs, Official Showcases, After Hours Showcases, Gig Fair, DJ Taping Sessions, The Exhbition Hall, Forums, Mentor Sessions, A Golf Tournament, Constituencey (artists, producers, media, promoters, etc.) Meetings, Awards Ceremonies, Keynote Address, three meals, Fan Feast, day-long teacher workshop, and more.  Events continue from 9:00 A.M until 2:00 A.M, and that's just the material on the program.  Beyond that there are invitation only events sponsored by record companies and equipment manufacturers as well as private showcases in hotel suites sponsored by bluegrass associations that function as booking auditions.  Planning your experience and keeping track of your next opportunity are major tasks of attending this jam-packed full experience.  Furthermore, almost wherever you turn, especially in the evenings and late into the nights, you can find informal jams in hallways and hotel suites.  The biggest problem presented by this event is how best to use your time and maximize the return on your investment. It's not for nothing that veteran attendees refer to the IBMA initials as standing for I've Been Mostly Awake.  

At one level I like to look at IBMA - WOB as a showcase for "Best Practices in Bluegrass."  At seminar after seminar I was stunned by the quality of ideas being offered and their relevance to me (as a blogger) and to my understanding of the bluegrass industry, the content I write about.  One element I saw at almost every seminar I attended was the effective integration of computer imagery to enhance the visual quality of the presentations. No longer do handouts represent the major non-spoken means of communication.  Although there was a good deal of variation in quality, presenters used Power Point, video examples, photos, charts, and slides to illustrate the major points they were making, supplementing these aides with take-home handouts for future reference as well as extensive on-line support for later use. lgihts and sound

Ariel Hyatt
I'd like to highlight a few seminars I found particularly useful for shedding light on different points of view and skills.  Ariel Hyatt, a specialist in online public relations, presented a program called "Music Sucess in Nine Weeks," which examined the role of social networking in developing a band's reputation.  Hyatt talked about the role of Facebook, MySpace, web sites, and blogs and examined techniques to use them as a seamless approach to publicizing oneself.  Using plenty of data and presenting lots of ideas, Hyatt sketched out approaches that could help any band increase its visibility and build its fan base. A quick read of Ariel's article "Top Seven Reasons Artists Strongly Resist Social Media" might serve as a good introduction to why her ideas are  important.   Other seminars examined and critiqued web sites and discussed how to build business plans.  Performers serious about building their income could have done much worse than attend these seminars. 

The Artist's Team
On Tuesday afternoon a session called "The Artist's Team: A Case Study with Dailey & Vincent" focused on how this phenomenally successful band has managed to create such a powerhouse in only three years.  The panel included, in addition to Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent a number of members of their team, including publicist Karen Byrd, Attorney David Crowe, Recording executive Ken Irwin,and Nashville super-agent Don Light with Jon Weisberger serving as moderator.  It would be easy for an artist or manager to say, "Why attend this, they have all these people and money," but how they put that team together and the sacrifices they made to make it happen are all part of the story.  No person interested in developing a successful management team and business plan could have failed to learn from this interesting event or to be able to take applicable principles away from the discussion.

Don Light
A quite different event was held in conjunction with the installation of John Hartford in the IBMA Hall of Fame.  The panel, chaired by journalist Barry Mazer, included Jamie Hartford, and featured Tut Taylor and George Gruhn.  Taylor, who appeared playing his famous flat-picked Dobro on Hartford's Steam Powered Aereo-Plain recording, brought his always sprightly smile and sharp-witted commentary to the event.  Mazer chose highly appropriate film and video clips along with a recorded commentary from Norman Blake, to help enrich the discussion.  For anyone who cherishes this ground breaking recording and the history of the development of bluegrass, this was a can't miss event.

George Gruhn and Tut Taylor

 Thursday's Special Awards Luncheon had two quite moving awards that were deeply appreciated by the attendees.  Lynn Morris and Pete Wernick were each given Distinguished Acheivement Awards.  Lynn has had a long and successful career as a performer and now has largely recovered from a debilitating stroke which forced her to stop performing too soon.  Through sheer pluck and determination, Lynn Morris has faced her health problems with grace and dignity that have provided an example for all in bluegrass and beyond.  

Tom Adams Introduces Lynn Morris
Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Wilborn

 Lynn Morris Accepts Award

Pete Wernick, toured with Hot Rize for twelve years and served as  IBMA  president for the first fifteen years of its existence. With reunion concerts, Hot Rize has a performing history spanning more than thirty years.   Meanwhile he has established a unique niche in bluegrass as Dr. Banjo, teaching thousands of bluegrass enthusiasts to become jammers.  Recently, he has established a network of Wernick cerrtifed teachers to spread his jamming philosophy still further. Despite a long and productive career, Pete Wernick is just finishing a new Hot Rize tour, planning a new CD release, and developing new and exciting plans.

Pete Wernick Receives Distinguished Achievement Award
from Old Friend Tim O'Brien

The IBMA Awards Show on Thursday evening is the organization's big night.  Awards are presented to musicians, industry greats are installed in the Hall of Fame, and a festive environment pervades the entire event, held in the storied Ryman Auditorium, where, arguably, bluegrass music was first unveiled on the night Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs first appeared on stage with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys.  I've already covered the Awards Show, but here are three highlights for us:
Gibson Brothers 
Song of the Year - Gospel Song of the Year
Ring the Bell

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper
Instrumental Group of the Year
Fiddle Player of the Year
Bass Player of the Year 

Dailey & Vincent
Vocal Group of the Year
Album of the Year
Entertainer of the Year
 Award Show Hosts
Cheryl White, Jerry Douglas, Sharon White

Dan Hays - IBMA Executive Director
Opening Orientation Sessin
Claire Lynch
Female Vocalist of the Year

Me with Donna Ulisse and Kathy Sacra-Anderson
Page 44 October Bluegrass Unlimited 

Tom T. and Miss Dixie Hall
Dan Hays and Tut Taylor
Darin & Brooke Aldridge
After Hours Showcase
Mast Farm Inn Emerging Artists Series
The Exhibition Hall
Meeting and Greeting 
in the Hallways
Junior Sisk with Lynn Morris

Surprise Band - The Cleverlys
Funny and Edgy 

Classic Reunion
Paul Williams, Doyle Lawson, J.D. Crowe
The Convention Center

It's All Over For Another Year